Most women get constipated but did you know that constipation can factor into menstrual problems and infertility? When you don't eliminate your bowels properly you are setting up our body to reabsorb toxins and excess hormones that can affect your menstrual cycle and ultimately your fertility.
The shape and texture of your stool is very important. Many people think that as long as they are having a bowel movement once or twice a day that this is healthy but this is may not be the case. For instance, if your stool is stringy or pencil thin, this could be an indication that you are having an allergic response to a food because allergies create inflammation which restricts the pathway in the colon.
Or you may be experiencing small, dry, pellet stools which is a sign of dehydration. In the opposite spectrum is that you may be experiencing watery stools which indicates that your food is being passed without proper digestion.
So what's a good poop?
For most women, its optimal to have 1 to 3 bowel movements every day that are 6 to 12 inches long.
Do you get PMS? Do you get constipated? There is a connection!
Top Ten Tips for Constipation
There are many reasons why you may be constipated and it is important to speak to your doctor to rule out medical causes such as an obstruction in the colon.
1. Fibre is Your Friend
We all know that the lack of fibre causes constipation but did you know that you need 25 to 40 grams of fibre PER DAY? It is really important to increase your fibre content slowly and to increase your water intake otherwise there is a good chance you will become even more constipated.
Berry Chia Parfait
Easy to prepare the night before while cleaning up the dinner dishes...one mess. Simply mix all the ingredients and put it in the fridge. In the morning you have a yummy high fibre parfait waiting for you. The seeds and oats have soaked over night so it's very easy to digest. Easy to take to work as well.
Try to slowly increase your fibre intake to avoid constipation. This recipe uses chia seeds which are an excellent source of fibre, healthy fats and protein. You can always sprinkle some extra chia seeds just before serving which gives the parfait an extra little crunch.
2. Drink More Water
So how much water do you need to drink every day to keep your body working well and avoid constipation?
I recommend my clients start each morning with a half squeezed lemon in a large glass of clean filtered warm or room temperature water to ensure optimal hydration, a boost of vitamin C and the enzymes in the lemon juice will wake up her digestion by stimulating hydrochloric acid which helps to digest your breakfast. The lemon water should be sipped slowly for 20 minutes prior to breakfast and your mouth rinsed afterwards to protect your teeth.
According to "Staying Healthy with Nutrition by Elson M.Haas MD, " Water is best consumed at several intervals throughout the day - 1 or 2 glasses upon waking and also about an hour before each meal. Water should not be drunk with or just after meals as it can dilute the digestive juices and reduce food digestion and nutrient assimilation." " Drinking enough contaminant-free water is likely our most significant nutritional health factor." " I recommend that the average person consume 1.5 to 2 quarts of water daily"
3. Sit Up Straight
Yes, your mother was right, posture is important. Learning to sit and stand with your pelvis in a neutral position makes a huge difference in allowing your poop to move through the colon unobstructed. Slouching leads to constipation! Instead, when you sit, make sure your tail bone is out behind you and you are not sitting on it. And when it comes to bathroom posture, squatting is your best option. Using a stool or "Squatty Potty" helps you to eliminate more completely and faster. Make sure your feet are not out really wide, about hip distance apart works well.
4. Keep a Food Journal
Keeping track of what you're eating can give you feedback for possible food allergies. Dairy and gluten are often culprits which cause inflammation in the body which creates constipation. Low magnesium levels can also be constipating and magnesium deficiencies are extremely common. You may want to increase high magnesium foods such as beans, brown rice, dried seaweed, high quality chocolate (raw cacao), and most nuts and seeds especially almonds, cashews,, and sesame seeds. Keeping track of how much water you drink each day is super helpful too!
No time to write to keep a written journal? No problem, apps like YouAte let you take pictures with your phone super quick (you won't be posting them) and then allow you to enjoy your meal.
5. Take Care of Your Gut
Lack of good bacteria such as lactobacillus, bifidobacteria, can cause constipation. Try to incorporate fermented foods such as Kombucha, Kimchi, and Kefir into your diet to promote good bacteria. You will also want to make sure that your stomach acid isn't too low. Click here to read about my favourite natural digestive aid or click here to contact me.
6. Do You Have an Hormonal Imbalance?
If you have underactive thyroid gland you may find that your metabolism and digestion may be slowing down, making your bowel sluggish and leading to longer transit time of stools and weaker muscle contractions. Stress can mess with your hormones as well, creating Insulin issues and excess cortisol which can also cause constipation.
If you are having hormonal imbalances it is super important that you not ignore them. When you are constipated excess hormones, toxins, and endocrine disrupting chemicals cannot get out of your body so the problem will continue to get worse. Now add on sugar imbalance and adrenal fatigue and you have a recipe for infertility. Limiting sugar, eating whole foods, honouring your menstrual cycle and having 7 1/2 to 9 hours of good quality sleep will help with hormone balance or seek out guidance from a Holistic Nutrition Consultant like myself. Click here to contact me anytime.
7. Watch What You Take
Medications such as antacids, antidepressants, some over the counter drugs like antihistamines, calcium and iron supplements, and some blood pressure medications can cause constipation so you need to be extra vigilant in making sure you are eating fibre and drinking plenty of water. Even better, if you don't absolutely need the pills, don't take them!
8. Move That Body
Walk, run, jump, whatever you like the best, do it and do it often!! Exercising everyday will certainly help to keep you regular and even better, if you can also learn to locate and activate the pelvic floor muscles. Weak pelvic floor muscles, either too loose or too tight, can be a cause of constipation. Click here to contact me to find pelvic floor resources near you. Practicing yoga regularly is also a terrific way to keep constipation away and also works wonders for your sleep.
9. Travel Tips
Many people get constipated when they travel, including me! Make sure to pack the following on your next trip
Organic Herbal Tea bags will encourage you to drink more water and a warm non-caffine beverage before bed will help keep the food moving through your bowels while you sleep. My favourite bed time tea for constipation is Traditional Medicine's Organic Smooth Move tea found in most health food stores and large grocery stores.
Get walking, everywhere you can. Make an extra effort to walk instead of drive or park further away than necessary. It will make a huge difference and your sleep with be better too especially if you are dealing with a time-tone difference.
Watch your caffeine and alcohol consumption. It's often very tempting to live it up with over-indulging when you are away but this will affect both your sleep and your bowels.
I always pack FibreSmart Capsules in case I miss a bowel movement, I take it before going to bed at night. Most constipation is due largely to dehydration in the colon. Almost 95% of the fibre products sold in the market are made from psyllium fibre. Psyllium is a highly water-soluble fibre, which means that it absorbs water. This can further dehydrate the colon, making most people even more constipated. FibreSMART contains flax seed, acacia fibre and guar gum which contains a blend of roughly 50% soluble fibre and 50% insoluble fibre.
10. Take Time to Relax
Many times constipation can be caused by the difficulty of letting go. I find that this is common for my clients who have difficulty sleeping and having regular bowel movements. So much of our day is consumed by the process of getting things done that we often don't value time spent on just letting go of the business of our day and the clenching within our body that our day produced. Yoga is a tremendous practice in teaching us to let go. I am not talking about Power Yoga although it has it's merits, I am referring to a yoga practice that helps us to quiet our minds and slow our breath and movements. If you need help finding a yoga practice, please click here to contact me and I would be happy to give you many options.